A cat behaviorist with more than twenty years of experience – and the host of Animal Planet’s hit show My Cat From Hell – Jackson Galaxy specializes in helping individuals whose “out of control” cats are turning their lives and homes upside down. He recently sat down with the New York Times:
Do you think that the popularity of cats online has had an effect on cats? Do they realize we’ve come back to worshiping them? I was on the scene back when cats were pariahs, and now that they’re like the Egyptian goddess once again, man, I am not looking that gift horse in the mouth. It’s an amazing time; it’s a renaissance for cats. Lil Bub could run for president right now, and she might have a better chance than Donald Trump. I’m all for it.
As the host of ‘‘My Cat From Hell,’’ you’re perhaps the nation’s most prominent cat person. What do you think is the essential difference between dog people and cat people? I remember reading this study where dog people were asked about cat people and vice versa. Cat people said that dog people were snooty, and dog people said that cat people were stupid. I think these lines are artificial; everyone should be ‘‘bi-petual.’’
You wrote a book on ‘‘catification,’’ or remodeling your home for feline companions. Why do you think there’s no parallel dog architecture coffee-table book? Well, we have dog parks. We have doggy play dates. Dogs represent our social selves. Cats live in our territory, but by and large, they don’t come with us out into the world.
Do you think cat owners are just more willing than dog owners to literally rearrange their lives in order to make their pets happier? Dog people arrange their entire social schedule around their dogs. You will end your date early. I have excused myself from many a black-tie function because the dogs needed to go out.
You are in recovery from addiction; what role have animals played in your sobriety? People might think I’m being dramatic when I say that if it weren’t for my experience with animals, I would have been dead 20 years ago. Animals keep me honest. And without living a rigorously honest life, addicts will relapse.
Cats certainly are a very good way of recognizing your powerlessness. Yes. They teach us that at every moment: Let it go; deal with it.
On your show, you do a lot of soulful gazing into cats’ eyes. Dog behaviorists are all about dominance and order. Do you think that there’s something about cats that demands a more touchy-feely approach? I’m not religious, but I firmly have roots in the spirit world, and I’m consistently learning from cats what lies beyond the tangible. They’re completely in touch with that.
When you say cats are in touch with what lies beyond the tangible, what are you talking about? We are surrounded by energy, we are mostly made up of energy and cats are so attuned to that. You’ve probably seen your cat stare at a spot on the wall, just stare at it.
Yes. My cats do this sometimes. If you’re totally, overly human about it, you’re going to be like: dumb cat. Right? What I think is that they are locked into an energy pattern in that corner of your room. And they are observing and taking it in. If you allow yourself to see that, it makes perfect sense.
This is distinct from the online conspiracy theory that cats were sent to spy on us by aliens? Yes. One of the things I always end up talking about on my book tour is the way the press perpetuates the demonization of cats. They take these studies and exaggerate their claims. There was this story recently that said your cat would eat you if it could.
I think my cats would eat me if they could. If there was no other food, and they were starving. They would, totally, but that just makes them ecologically efficient.
What do you think of the theory that cats take their owners to be large, strange, hairless cats? That’s silly. Any time you start a sentence with ‘‘Cats think,’’ you’re going to be wrong.